Local cycling comps come to a close | VailDaily.com

Local cycling comps come to a close

Racers attack the course during Wednesday's cyclocross race in Eagle.
John LaConte | Jlaconte@vaildaily.com |

EAGLE — There’s just something a little different about cyclocross. Perhaps it’s the $20 bills up for grabs — literally — as riders complete their laps.

A smaller scene on multiple levels, cyclocross racing takes riders over obstacles, up steeps and around hairpin turns as they attempt as many laps as they can in an allotted amount of time. Once that time span has elapsed, it’s a race to the finish, making it both a timed and a head-to-head competition. Riders ride multi-purpose bicycles — road bikes with mountain-biking tires — and are forced to dismount and run with their bike on several different occasions throughout the race.

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And at the Vail Recreation District’s cyclocross races, officials offer cash and other prizes to competitors for specific tasks performed throughout their race. If those competitors want the cash, then they must grab it and stuff it in their racing shorts as they compete. At one point in Wednesday’s race, Mexico native Ciro Zarate was offered an all-expenses-paid trip back to Mexico if he could catch the competitor in front of him.

“That’s why I slowed down,” he said after the race. “I like it here too much.”

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Professional cyclocross racer and Eagle County local Jake Wells said for him, the sport of cyclocross keeps things interesting while he’s on the bike.

“I just like the fact that it’s different,” Wells said. “It’s a really cool scene.”

Wells won the open division on Wednesday night for the men, with Tara Picklo finishing first for the women. Both described the race as a tune up for the professional cyclocross racing season, which takes place in the fall and runs until early December.

“It gets everybody together and reminds us how to suffer a little bit,” Picklo said. “I’m really thankful to the VRD for putting these races on. It’s a great way to end the local season.”

13 for 13

It was the 13th mountain bike race of the season for the Vail Recreation District, which started the local competition season for cyclists in April with the short track mountain bike race series. The bulk of the season was consumed by the Rec District’s cross-country mountain bike race series, and finally the season wrapped up Wednesday with the second of two cyclocross races.

Marlin Smickley, a local volunteer in his 70s, worked 12 of the 13 races. He said the cyclocross races can be the most difficult to host due to the obstacles.

“Everyone works so hard,” Smickley said.

For Rec District worker Jamie Gunion, Wednesday’s cyclocross race was the last race she had the pleasure of working tenure with the Rec District. She’s leaving to pursue her own business.

“So much has changed in the nine years I’ve worked here,” she said. “When I started there were five running races and five mountain bike races. Now we have a whitewater race series, the kids adventure games, the short track race series and cyclocross. It’s been really fun to watch it evolve.”

The Rec District’s season wraps up Sunday with the final running race of 2015, the Evergold 10K. That race will begin and end at Mountain Plaza in Vail Village. Runners will make their way to Golden Peak, up the Berry Picker trail to Lion Down and Hank’s Hideaway, before returning back to Mountain Plaza. It’s scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

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